The University of the South
Latin: Universitas Meridiana
MottoEcce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum.
(Latin, from Psalm 133)
Motto in English
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity![1]
Established1857; 167 years ago (1857)
Religious affiliation
Episcopal Church
Academic affiliations
Endowment$519.1 million (2021)[3]
ChancellorJacob Wayne Owensby[4]
Vice-ChancellorRobert W. Pearigen[5]
CampusRural, 13,000 acres (5,300 ha)
Colors    Purple and gold
Sporting affiliations

The University of the South, familiarly known as Sewanee (/səˈwɑːni/),[7][8] is a private Episcopal liberal arts college in Sewanee, Tennessee. It is owned by 28 southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and its School of Theology is an official seminary of the church. The university's School of Letters offers graduate degrees in American Literature and Creative Writing. The campus (officially called "The Domain" or, affectionately, "The Mountain") consists of 13,000 acres (53 km2)[9] of scenic mountain property atop the Cumberland Plateau, with the developed portion occupying about 1,000 acres (4.0 km2).


See also: List of Confederate monuments and memorials § Sewanee

1871 Poster for Sewanee

Beginning in the 1830s Bishop James Otey of Tennessee led an effort to found an Episcopal seminary in the Deep South. Following the Mexican War the Episcopal Church saw tremendous growth in the region, and a real need for an institution "to train natives, for natives" as Otey put it arose.[10] Up to that point only the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia existed south of the Mason-Dixon Line and other denominations were already establishing schools in the region. The location was chosen primarily because of the proximity to the major railway hub of Chattanooga, Tennessee and the existing railroad spur up the mountain, the "Mountain Goat" which ran from 1858 until April 1985.[11] Bishop Leonidas Polk commented that due to the access to railroads one could reach any point in the South from Sewanee within thirty-six to forty-eight hours.

On July 4, 1857, delegates from ten Southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas—were led up Monteagle Mountain by Polk for the founding of their denominational college for the region. The goal was to create a Southern university free of Northern influences. As Otey put it: the new university will "materially aid the South to resist and repel a fanatical domination which seeks to rule over us."[12] The majority of the land for the university was donated by the Sewanee Mining Company on the condition that a university "be put in operation within ten years".[13] The company's early profits were derived from the labor of mainly African-American convict leasing.[14]

The six-ton marble cornerstone, laid on October 10, 1860, and consecrated by Polk, was blown up in 1863 by Union soldiers; many of the pieces were collected and kept as keepsakes by the soldiers. A few were donated back to the university, and a large fragment was eventually installed in a wall of All Saints' Chapel. Several figures later prominent in the Confederacy, notably Polk, Bishop Stephen Elliott, Jr., and Bishop James Hervey Otey, were founders of the university. Generals Edmund Kirby Smith, Josiah Gorgas, and Francis A. Shoup were prominent in the university's postbellum revival.

Because of the damage and disruptions during the Civil War, construction came to a temporary halt. Polk died in action during the Atlanta campaign. He is remembered through his portrait Sword Over the Gown, painted by Eliphalet F. Andrews in 1900. After the original was vandalized in 1998, a copy by Connie Erickson was unveiled on June 1, 2003.

In 1866, building was resumed, and this date is sometimes used as the re-founding of the university and the year from which it has maintained continuous operations, though official materials and anniversary celebrations still use 1857. The university's first convocation was held on September 18, 1868, with nine students and four faculty members present. Presiding was Charles Todd Quintard, vice-chancellor (chief academic officer) of the university, second Bishop of Tennessee and "Chaplain of the Confederacy" (compiler of the Confederate Soldiers' Pocket Manual of Devotions, 1863). He attended the first Lambeth Conference in England (1868) and received financial support from clergy and laity of the Church of England for rebuilding the school. Quintard is known as the "Re-Founder" of the University of the South.

During World War II, the University of the South was one of 131 tertiary institutions nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program, which offered students a path to a Navy commission.[15]

Schools of dentistry, engineering, law, medicine, and nursing once existed,[16] and a secondary school was part of the institution into the second half of the 20th century. However, for financial reasons it was eventually decided to focus on the college and the School of Theology. In June 2006, Sewanee opened its School of Letters, a second graduate school. It offers a Master of Arts in American Literature and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

2004 name change

For the period 2004 to about 2016, the institution combined its two historical names in all university publications that were not official documents and styled itself as "Sewanee: The University of the South". Version three of the university's style guide, a document reflecting the official policies of the university with respect to its public image following the name change, stated in part:

First, it must be understood that the official and legal name of this institution is "The University of the South". In the past, though, unorganized use of this official name and the university's familiar name, Sewanee, has been confusing to those unfamiliar with the institution. In addition, college guides and Web sites that have become so crucial in young people's college searches may list the institution under as many as four different entries—beginning with "The", "University", "South", or "Sewanee". To avoid confusion and to honor the history and character of the institution, a consistent reference to the name of the institution is critical. So, for extended audiences unfamiliar with the institution, the naming convention "Sewanee: The University of the South" should be used on a first reference. Subsequent references may be to "Sewanee" or "the University".[17]

A minor scandal ensued, with more conservative commentators insinuating that the change was intended to "distance" the university from its historic association with Southern culture.[18][19] "Some alumni were also angered by a report commissioned by the university last year [2004] by a marketing firm from Chicago that said that the word 'South' often had negative connotations for students around the country; the weaker the connection between the South and the university's name, the better, the consultants said."[20] As of February 2016, the university has reverted to using the University of the South as its official name on all correspondence.[21]

2018 Charlie Rose controversy

In the wake of several women coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment against television personality Charlie Rose,[22] many educational institutions revoked honorary degrees bestowed on him.[23] Sewanee's board of regents initially declined to do so, citing a desire to "not condemn the individual".[24] However, due to backlash from student members of the board of trustees[25] and faculty in the university's school of theology,[26] the board of regents reversed their original decision and rescinded Rose's honorary doctorate.[27]

Ties to slavery and the Roberson Project

In September 2020, the board released a statement acknowledging for the first time that the university "was long entangled with, and played a role in, slavery, racial segregation, and white supremacy".[28] It added that the university "categorically rejects its past veneration of the Confederacy and of the 'Lost Cause' and wholeheartedly commits itself to an urgent process of institutional reckoning ...".[29][30] The university announced that it will utilize the findings of its Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation (which began in 2017) to guide their current discussions and path forward.[28][31]


Sewanee offers bachelor's degrees in arts and sciences as well as advanced degrees in its two graduate schools, the School of Theology and the School of Letters. Its most popular undergraduate majors, by 2021 graduates, were:[32]


All Saints' Chapel

The Sewanee campus overlooks the Tennessee Valley and consists of 13,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau. It includes many buildings constructed of various materials faced with local stone, most done in the Gothic style. In 2011, it was named by Travel + Leisure as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.[33]

McClurg Hall

Literary associations

The Sewanee Review, founded in 1892, is the oldest continuously published literary magazine in the United States, and has published many distinguished authors.[43] Its success helped launch the Sewanee Writers' Conference, held each summer. The School of Letters, offering an M.A. in English and M.F.A. in Creative Writing, was established in 2006. The current editor is Adam Ross (author).[44]

Sewanee and its environs have been the (temporary or full-time) residence of such authors as Allen Tate, Andrew Lytle, William Alexander Percy, Walker Percy, Shelby Foote, Caroline Gordon, and Robert Lowell. In 1983 playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner Tennessee Williams left his literary rights to the University of the South. Ensuing royalties helped build the Tennessee Williams Center, a performance venue and teaching facility, and create the Tennessee Williams teaching fellowships, which bring well-known figures in the arts to the campus.

"Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum", the university's motto, is taken from the opening of Psalm 133: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."

Environmental sustainability

Since Fall 2008, the university has held an annual Sustainability Week, which featured speakers, feasts of local foods, and environmentally themed documentaries. The campus is also home to an environmental sustainability house, The Green House, and residence halls have environmental sustainability representatives. In 2007, the university became a signatory to the President's Climate Commitment. As of 2011, the university received a "B" on the College Sustainability Report Card.[45]

Institutional traditions

Academic rankings
Liberal arts
U.S. News & World Report[46]51
Washington Monthly[47]105
WSJ / College Pulse[49]141

The school is rich in distinctive traditions, many of which are tied to Southern culture. For example, male students have historically worn coats and ties to classes—this tradition has generally been continued. Faculty and student members of the primary honor society and main branch of student government, the Order of Gown (changed after controversy surrounding the exclusivity of the title "order of the gownsmen"), may wear academic gowns to teach or attend class—one of the last vestiges of this historically English practice in North America.[18] Furthermore, the Order is charged with the maintenance of this and other traditions of the university.[50]

Greek life

The university saw the installation of its first fraternity in 1877 with the founding of the Tennessee Omega chapter of Alpha Tau Omega. In 1880, that chapter became the first of any fraternity in the South to have its own chapter house or lodge, which belonged to the fraternity until its closure in 2021.[51] As of 2022, slightly over half of Sewanee male students are members of fraternities, and slightly over two-thirds of female students belong to sororities.[52]

Mace controversy

The university mace, an unsolicited gift dedicated to early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, which prominently featured a Confederate battle flag, has been a point of interest in the debate over the university's identity, because of its association with Forrest and its implications for attitudes toward African Americans. Forrest had no connection with the university;[18] the mace had been commissioned in 1964 by Louise Claiborne-Armstrong, whose brother attended the university. (A portrait of her by Amanda Brewster Sewell is in the University Art Gallery.)

It was given to the university in 1965 and was carried by the president of the Order of Gownsmen at academic processions until it disappeared in 1997. Upon its rediscovery, various alumni offered to pay for the mace's repair but the university declined their offer.[18]


Further information: Sewanee Tigers football

Sewanee was a charter member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1894. The Sewanee Tigers were pioneers in American intercollegiate athletics and possessed the Deep South's preeminent football program in the 1890s. The 1899 football team had perhaps the best season in college football history, winning all 12 of their games, 11 by shutout, and outscoring their opponents 322–10. Five of those wins, all shutouts, came in a six-day period while on a 2,500-mile (4,000 km) trip by train.[53] In 2012, the College Football Hall of Fame held a vote of the greatest historic teams of all time, where the 1899 Iron Men beat the 1961 Alabama Crimson Tide as the greatest team of all time.[54]

Sewanee was also a charter member of the Southeastern Conference upon its formation in 1932. By this time, however, its athletic program had declined precipitously and Sewanee never won a conference football game in the eight years it was an SEC member. The Tigers were shut out 26 times in their 37 SEC games, and were outscored by a combined total of 1163–84.[53]

When Vice Chancellor Benjamin Ficklin Finney, who had reportedly objected to Sewanee joining the SEC, left his position in 1938, the leading candidate was Alexander Guerry, a former president of the University of Chattanooga. According to a university historian, Guerry agreed to come to Sewanee only if the school stopped awarding athletic scholarships. In 1940, two years after Guerry's arrival, Sewanee withdrew from the SEC and subsequently deemphasized varsity athletics. Guerry's stance is sometimes credited as an early step toward the 1973 creation of NCAA Division III, which prohibits athletic scholarships.[53]

Sewanee went on to become a charter member of the College Athletic Conference in 1962. The conference, now the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC), consists of small, academically focused private liberal arts colleges such as Sewanee.[55]

Sewanee is now a member of the Southern Athletic Association (SAA),[56] offering 11 varsity sports for men and 13 for women. As is the case for all of its previous conferences, Sewanee is a charter member of its current conference—it was one of the seven SCAC members that announced their departure from that conference at the 2011 annual meeting of SCAC presidents.[55] The seven were joined by Berry College, another small private school in Georgia.[55]

Notable alumni and faculty

Main article: List of Sewanee: The University of the South people

Sewanee has over 12,000 alumni from all 50 states and 40 countries and has produced 26 Rhodes Scholars, as well as 34 NCAA Postgraduate Fellows, 46 Watson Fellowships, and dozens of Fulbright Scholars. The School of Theology's alumni include bishops, including three of the last five presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church.[57]

See also


  1. ^ "Sewanee Glossary". The University of the South. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013.
  2. ^ "NAICU - Membership". Archived from the original on November 9, 2015.
  3. ^ As of June 30, 2021. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2021 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY20 to FY21 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 18, 2022. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  4. ^ "The Rt. Rev. Dr. Jake Owensby, T'97, H'12 elected chancellor".
  5. ^ "The 18th Vice-Chancellor". Archived from the original on May 2, 2023. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  6. ^ a b "College Navigator - The University of the South".
  7. ^ Finder, Alan (November 30, 2005). "In Desire to Grow, Colleges in South Battle With Roots". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  8. ^ "Writing Style Guide". The University of the South. Retrieved November 11, 2022.
  9. ^ "About Sewanee". Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  10. ^ Williamson, Samuel (2008). Sewanee Sesquicentennial History The Making Of The University Of The South.
  11. ^ Williamson, Sam (2008). Sewanee Sesquicentennial History The Making Of The University Of The South.
  12. ^ Steven Deyle (2013). Carry Me Back : The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life. Oxford University Press. Retrieved June 20, 2013., pp. 205-07.
  13. ^ Fairbanks, George Rainsford (1905). History of the University of the South, at Sewanee, Tennessee. Jacksonville, FL: H&WB Drew Company. p. 24.
  14. ^ "Ghosts of Lone Rock". Sewanee: The University of the South. Retrieved September 19, 2022.
  15. ^ "U.S. Naval Administration in World War II". HyperWar Foundation. 2011. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  16. ^ The Lost History of Sewanee's Training School for Nurses. December 12, 2019. accessed December 24, 2023.
  17. ^ The University of the South.Graphics Identity Standards Manual, Section 5.1.
  18. ^ a b c d Finder, Alan. (2005).In Desire to Grow, Colleges in South Battle With Roots, The New York Times.
  19. ^ McWhirter, Cameron. (2005). Colleges suffer identity crisis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived February 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Finder, Alan (November 30, 2005). "In Desire to Grow, Colleges in South Battle With Roots". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  21. ^ "Identity Standards Manual" (PDF). The University of the South. February 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2022.
  22. ^ Carmon, Brittain (November 20, 2018). "Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them — with nudity, groping and lewd calls". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  23. ^ Blain, Glenn (January 23, 2018). "SUNY revokes Charlie Rose's honorary degree". NY Daily News. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  24. ^ "Board of Regents chooses to maintain Rose's honorary degree". Sewanee Purple. February 15, 2018. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  25. ^ "Board of Regents Discusses Revoking Charlie Rose's Honorary Degree". Sewanee Purple. February 12, 2018. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  26. ^ "An open letter to the Board of Regents from the School of Theology tenured faculty". February 20, 2018. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  27. ^ "Sewanee Revokes Charlie Rose's Honorary Degree after Months of Pressure to Take Action", Episcopal News Service, March 22, 2018,
  28. ^ a b Smith, Claire (September 24, 2020). "Board of Regents re-evaluates Sewanee's history". The Sewanee Purple. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  29. ^ Jaschik, Scott (September 9, 2020). "Sewanee Board Rejects 'Veneration' of Confederacy". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  30. ^ "Statement by the Board of Regents". The University of the South (Press release). September 8, 2020. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  31. ^ "Letter from Vice-Chancellor Brigety". The University of the South (Press release). September 8, 2020. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  32. ^ "The University of the South". U.S. Dept of Education. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  33. ^ "America's Most Beautiful College Campuses". Travel + Leisure.
  34. ^ "Library Collections". Retrieved November 2, 2022.
  35. ^ "About: Ralston Listening Library". University of the South. Retrieved November 2, 2022.
  36. ^ "On-Campus Dining". University of the South. Retrieved November 2, 2022.
  37. ^ "Chapel of the Apostles | The School of Theology | Sewanee: The University of the South". Archived from the original on July 19, 2014. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  38. ^ DePersio, Greg (July 27, 2022). "Sewanee Dorms Ranked From Best to Worst". College Jaguar. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  39. ^ "Current Theme Houses". The University of the South. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  40. ^ "The University of the South Common Data Set 2021-2022" (PDF). 2022. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  41. ^ "". October 7, 2008. Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  42. ^
  43. ^ "About". The Sewanee Review.
  44. ^ Alter, Alexandra (June 4, 2017). "New Life for a 125-Year-Old Literary Journal" – via
  45. ^ "The College Sustainability Report Card". Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  46. ^ "Best Colleges 2024: National Liberal Arts Colleges". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 20, 2023.
  47. ^ "2023 Liberal Arts Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  48. ^ "Forbes America's Top Colleges List 2023". Forbes. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  49. ^ "2024 Best Colleges in the U.S." The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  50. ^ "About – The Order of Gown". Archived from the original on May 29, 2010. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  51. ^ The Sewanee Purple (2021).[1].
  52. ^ The University of the South Common Data Set 2021-2022.
  53. ^ a b c Dorsey, Patrick (September 23, 2011). "Sewanee, long-lost member of the SEC". Page 2. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  54. ^ Martin, Cam. "Sewanee puffs out chest with historic title - Sports Fans, Teams, Stadiums, Page 2 - Fandom Blog - ESPN Playbook - ESPN". Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  55. ^ a b c "Eight southeastern colleges, including Sewanee, form new athletic conference" (Press release). Sewanee: The University of the South. June 7, 2011. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  56. ^ "Eight Division III colleges form newly named Southern Athletic Association" (Press release). Sewanee: The University of the South. August 19, 2011. Archived from the original on January 23, 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  57. ^ "About Sewanee". Retrieved July 31, 2012.

35°12′11″N 85°55′11″W / 35.20306°N 85.91972°W / 35.20306; -85.91972